On the inside back cover of books published by Gallup Press there is the
following breathtaking statement:
Gallup Press exists to educate and inform the people who govern, manage,
teach and lead the world's six billion citizens. Each book meets Gallup's requirements of
integrity, trust and independence and is based on a Gallup-approved science and
Don't be distracted by the bad grammar. Focus instead on Gallup's "requirements of integrity,
trust and independence." Thanks to a remarkable admission by a coauthor of
bestseller Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, we
are now able to know precisely what Gallup's
"requirements" really are.
Who Speaks for Islam? is written by John L. Esposito, founding
director of Georgetown University's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center
for Muslim-Christian Understanding, and Dalia Mogahed, executive director of
the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. As the
authors state at the outset, the book's goal is to "democratize the
debate" about a potential clash between Western and Muslim civilizations
by shedding light on the "actual views of everyday
Muslims"--especially the "silenced majority" whose views
Esposito and Mogahed argue are lost in the din about terrorism, extremism, and
This majority, they contend, are just like us. They pray like Americans,
dream of professional advancement like Americans, delight in technology like
Americans, celebrate democracy like Americans, and cherish the ideal of women's
equality like Americans. In fact, the authors write, "everyday
Muslims" are so similar to ordinary Americans that "conflict between
the Muslim and Western communities is far from inevitable."
Similar arguments have been made before; some of this is true, some is
rubbish, much is irrelevant. The real debate about the "clash of
civilizations" is about whether a determined element of radical Muslims
could, like the Bolsheviks, take control of their societies and lead them into
conflict with the West. The question often revolves around a disputed data
point: Of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, how many are radicals? If the number
is relatively small, then the fear of a clash is inflated; if the number is
relatively large, then the nightmare might not be so outlandish after all.
What gives Who Speaks for Islam? its aura of credibility is that its
answers are allegedly based on hard data, not taxi-driver anecdotes from a
quick visit to Cairo.
The book draws on a mammoth, six-year effort to poll and interview tens of
thousands of Muslims in more than 35 countries with Muslim majorities or
substantial minorities. The polling sample, Esposito and Mogahed claim,
represents "more than 90 percent of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims."
To back up the claim, the book bears the name of the gold-standard of American
polling firms, Gallup.
The answer to that all-important question, the authors say, is 7 percent.
That is the percentage of Muslims who told pollsters that the attacks of
September 11, 2001, were "completely" justified and who said they
view the United States unfavorably--the double-barreled litmus test devised by
Esposito and Mogahed to determine who is radical and who isn't.
The authors don't actually call even these people
"radicals," however; the term they use is "politically
radicalized," which implies that someone else is responsible for turning
these otherwise ordinary Muslims into bin Laden sympathizers. By contrast,
Muslims who said the 9/11 attacks were "not justified" they term
More than half the book is an effort to distinguish the 7 percent of
extremist Muslims from the "9 out of 10," as they say, who are
moderates and then to focus our collective efforts on reaching out to the
fringe element. With remarkable exactitude, they argue: "If the 7 percent
(91 million) of the politically radicalized continue to feel politically
dominated, occupied and disrespected, the West will have little, if any, chance
of changing their minds." There is no need to worry about the 93 percent
because, as Esposito and Mogahed have already argued, they are just like us.
There is much here to criticize. The not-so-hidden purpose of this book is
to blur any difference between average Muslims around the world and average
Americans, and the authors rise to the occasion at every turn. Take the very
definition of "Islam." From Karen Armstrong to Bernard Lewis--and
that's a pretty broad range--virtually every scholar of note (and many who
aren't) has translated the term "Islam" as "submission to
God." But "submission" evidently sounds off-putting to the
American ear, so Esposito and Mogahed offer a different, more melodious
translation--"a strong commitment to God"--that has a ring to it of
everything but accuracy.
Or take the authors' cavalier attitude to the word "many." How
many is many? Thirty percent of the vote won't get Hillary Clinton nominated
for president, but it would be a lot if the subject were how many Americans
cheat on their taxes or beat their wives. At the very least, one might expect a
book based on polling data to be filled with numbers. This one isn't. Instead,
page after page of Who Speaks for Islam? contains such useless and
unsourced references as "many respondents cite" this or "many
Muslims see" that.
Or take the authors' apparent indifference to facts. Twice, for example,
they cite as convincing evidence for their argument poll data from "the
ten most populous majority Muslim countries," which they then list as
including Jordan and Lebanon, tiny
states that don't even rank in the top 25 of Muslim majority countries. Twice
they say their 10 specially polled countries collectively comprise 80 percent
of the world Muslim population; in fact, the figure is barely 60 percent.
These problems would not matter much if the book gave readers the
opportunity to review the poll data on which Esposito and Mogahed base their
judgments. Alas, that is not the case. Neither the text nor the appendix
includes the full data to a single question from any survey taken by Gallup over the entire
six-year period of its World Poll initiative. We, the readers, either have to pay
more than $20,000 to Gallup
to gain access to its proprietary research or have to rely on the good faith of
Or, more accurately, we have to rely on Gallup's good name--the "integrity,
trust and independence" cited above. Public comments by Mogahed at a
luncheon I hosted at the Washington Institute on April 17 show exactly what
that is worth.
Here's the context: As the event was about to close, Mogahed was pressed to
explain the book's central claim that radicals constitute 7 percent of the
world's Muslim population. A questioner focused on the critical distinction
between the 7 percent of respondents who said the 9/11 attacks were
"completely justified" and the other 93 percent. How many of those 93
percent, Mogahed was asked, actually answered that the attacks were
"partly," "somewhat," or even "largely"
justified? Were those people truly moderates?
In her answer, transcribed below, Mogahed refers in pollster code to numbers
ascribed to the five possible answers to the poll question about justifying
9/11. Although she and Esposito never discuss the details of this question in
their book, they did expound on them in a 2006 article in Foreign Policy
magazine, which described a five-point scale in which "Ones" are
respondents who said 9/11 was "totally unjustified" and
"Fives" those who said the attacks were "completely
In that article, she and Esposito wrote: "Respondents who said 9/11 was
justified (4 or 5 on the same scale) are classified as radical." In the
book they wrote two years later, they redefined "radical" to comprise
a much smaller group--only the Fives. But in her luncheon remarks, Mogahed
admitted that many of the "moderates" she and Esposito celebrated
really aren't so moderate after all.
MOGAHED: I can't off the top of my head [recall the data], but we are going
to be putting some of those findings in our [updated] book and our website.
To clarify a couple of things about the book--the book is not a hard-covered
polling report. The book is a book about the modern Muslim world that used its
polling to inform its analysis. So that's important: It's meant for a general
audience, and it's not meant to be a polling report. One very important reason
why is because Gallup
is selling subscriptions to its data. We are a for-profit company; we are not
Pew. We are Gallup.
So this isn't about ... it was not meant for the data to be free since we paid
$20 million to collect [the data] ... that we paid all on our own. So
just to clarify that...
So, how did we come up with the word "politically radicalized"
that we unfortunately used in the book? Here's why: because people who were
Fives, people who said 9/11 was justified, looked distinctly different from the
first, before we had enough data to do sort of a cluster analysis, we lumped
the Fours and Fives together because that was our best judgment.
QUESTIONER: And what percent was that?
MOGAHED: I seriously don't remember but I think it was in the range of 7 to
8 percent [actually, 6.5 percent].
QUESTIONER: So it's seven Fours and seven Fives?
MOGAHED: Yes, we lumped these two and did our analysis. When we had enough
data to really see when things broke away, here's what we found: Fives looked
very different from the Fours, and Ones through Fours looked similar. [Mogahed
then explained that, on another question, concerning suicide bombing,
respondents who said 9/11 was only partially justified clustered with those who
said it wasn't justified at all.] And so the Fives looked very different; they broke,
they clustered away, and Ones through Fours clustered together. And that is how
we decided to break them apart and decided how we were to define
"politically radicalized" for our research.
Yes, we can say that a Four is not that moderate ... I don't know. ...You
are writing a book, you are trying to come up with terminology people can
know, maybe it wasn't the most technically accurate way of doing this, but this
is how we made our cluster-based analysis.
So, there it is--the smoking gun. Mogahed publicly admitted they knew
certain people weren't moderates but they still termed them so. She and
Esposito cooked the books and dumbed down the text. Apparently, by the authors'
own test, there are not 91 million radicals in Muslim societies but almost
twice that number. They must have shrieked in horror to find their original
estimate on the high side of assessments made by scholars, such as Daniel
Pipes, whom Esposito routinely denounces as Islamophobes. To paraphrase Mogahed,
maybe it wasn't the most technically accurate way of doing this, but their neat
solution seems to have been to redefine 78 million people off the rolls of
The cover-up is even worse. The full data from the 9/11 question show that,
in addition to the 13.5 percent, there is another 23.1 percent of
respondents--300 million Muslims--who told pollsters the attacks were in some
way justified. Esposito and Mogahed don't utter a word about the vast sea of
intolerance in which the radicals operate.
And then there is the more fundamental fraud of using the 9/11 question as
the measure of "who is a radical." Amazing as it sounds, according to
Esposito and Mogahed, the proper term for a Muslim who hates America, wants to
impose Sharia law, supports suicide bombing, and opposes equal rights for women
but does not "completely" justify 9/11 is ... "moderate."
Could the smart people at Gallup really believe this? Regardless, they
should immediately release all the data associated with their world poll and open
all the files and archives of their Center for Muslim Studies to independent
inspection. With a dose of transparency and a dollop of humility, the data just
might teach something useful to the world's six billion citizens.